MELBOURNE Aug 12 Australia's Great Barrier Reef
remains under threat despite efforts to rein in major sources of
damage to the World Heritage-listed icon, the government said on
Canberra released a five-yearly review of the reef and moves
to protect it, to address concerns raised by UNESCO and persuade
the world body not to put the key tourist attraction on its "in
danger" list next year.
"Even with the recent management initiatives to reduce
threats and improve resilience, the overall outlook for the
Great Barrier Reef is poor, has worsened since 2009 and is
expected to further deteriorate," the government said in its
The fragile reef, which stretches 2,300 km (1,430 miles)
along Australia's east coast, is the centrepiece of a campaign
by green groups and marine tourist operators aiming to stop a
planned coal port expansion that would require millions of cubic
metres of sand to be dredged up and dumped near the reef.
The reef has the world's largest collection of coral reefs,
with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 types of
mollusc, and is home to threatened species, including the dugong
and large green turtle, the World Heritage list says.
The government said run-off from farms, crown-of-thorns
starfish and climate change remain the biggest threats to the
reef, but acknowledged that shipping and dredging occur in reef
areas already facing pressure from other impacts.
"Greater reductions of all threats at all levels, reef-wide,
regional and local, are required to prevent the projected
declines in the Great Barrier Reef and to improve its capacity
to recover," the government said.
The government said it would not allow any port development
outside long-established ports in Queensland. Those existing
ports include Abbot Point, where India's Adani Group and
compatriot GVK plan a huge coal terminal expansion, and
Gladstone, where ship traffic is set to increase sharply from
2015 as huge new liquefied natural gas plants start exports.
Green groups said the report did not let off the hook the
mining industry, which is digging up coal for export, adding to
climate change and expanding ports along the reef.
"The greatest risk, again, is climate change," said Wendy
Tubman, an official of the North Queensland Conservation
Council, which is leading a legal fight against the Abbot Point
"And we all know what the greatest contribution to climate
change is: that's mining coal for export."
The Queensland Resources Council, which represents the
mining industry, said it supported the effort of the state
government to improve port development and management along the
At a meeting in Doha in June, the World Heritage Committee
of UNESCO deferred until next year a decision on whether to
place the 300,000-sq-km reef on its list of sites in danger.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organisation is concerned over the proposed coastal
developments, and has asked Australia to submit an updated
report on the state of conservation of the reef, which sprawls
over an area half the size of Texas, by next February 1.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)